When my father died in the summer of 1991, I was already immersed in grief, editing a story for that year’s August magazine by a mother who had lost her baby daughter to a congenital heart condition.
Our circumstances were vastly different; my father’s death, though premature at age 67, came at the end of a life. Her daughter, who died before her second birthday, was just getting started. My father’s death was sudden and completely unexpected; the result of a malignancy he had told no one about. Her daughter’s death was long, slow and painful — a roller coaster ride of hope-inspiring surgeries and nauseating plunges into despair.
I remember reading her story over and over, awed by the juxtaposition of these two unrelated events in my life. I was consumed by my own grief, yet somehow found it comforting to read about hers. As she described her feelings I found affirmation for mine. And I understood what she had told me when she asked to write her story in the first place: She wanted others who were grieving to know “you’re not the only one who feels this way.”
This week, once again, life and work have merged.
Amid meals, hikes, visits with family members and numerous trips to the airport, I have been editing another story about loss: Phoenix writer Mary Ann Bashaw’s second installment in our 2011 series on “Finding Purpose in Grief.”
The series debuts this month with a story about Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D., a grief counselor and founder of the Phoenix-based MISS Foundation, who lost her own baby daughter, Cheyenne, in 1994. The February article focuses on a new Valley program created to support parents who face the excruciating challenge of seeing a pregnancy through despite the knowledge that their child will not survive. The goal of the Comfort and Resource Enhancement (CARE) Program is, according to Mary Ann’s story, to “reduce the family’s suffering through a loving and sensitive, but realistic, approach to this complex journey.”
As I was reading MaryAnn’s story early Wednesday morning, I received an email from my mom, who was sharing sad news from her husband’s side of the family. An eagerly anticipated great-grandchild was expected this Christmas season. A routine medical exam was scheduled after the mother’s due date passed. When doctors could not find a heartbeat, a Cesarean surgery followed. A stillborn child, a beautiful baby boy, was delivered.